Rocket for supersonic 'hybrid car' passes first test
An artist's rendering from Curventa and Siemens shows the BLOODHOUND SSC.
October 4th, 2012
10:41 AM ET

Rocket for supersonic 'hybrid car' passes first test

The rocket that will help power a 1,000-mph car passed its first test Wednesday, British engineers say.

The project is dubbed Bloodhound SSC. Its organizers plan for the pencil-shaped car to be zooming along the South African desert next year and break the world land speed record of 763 mph.

"The initial indications are that it went very well indeed," the rocket's designer, self-taught engineer Daniel Jubb, 28, told the Western Morning News in Cornwall, England, where the rocket was tested inside a hangar at a Royal Air Force base.

Engineers were looking over reams of data from the test to determine their next steps.

Jubb calls the Bloodhound's power plant a hybrid system, but it's not the type you'd find on your uncle's Prius.

It's a hybrid because the rocket uses a solid fuel, which is a synthetic rubber, and turns it into an aerosol with with a high-test peroxide and catalyst of fine silver mesh. The fuel is actually fired into the rocket by a Cosworth engine of the type found in Formula One race cars. Then all that power is combined with the thrust from a jet engine like the ones on Typhoon fighter planes.

The rocket hybrid produced 14,000 pounds of thrust on Wednesday. That's the equivalent of about 40,000 horsepower. The additional thrust from the  fighter jet engine will give the car a total of 135,000 horsepower. In contrast, the Prius hybrid system produces 134 horsepower. The engine of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race car produces about 750 horsepower. So Bloodhound will have the power of 180 NASCAR cars, or four times the entire starting grid at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.

Driving the Bloodhound on the South African test track will be Andy Green, a Royal Air Force pilot with experience flying Tornado fighters over Bosnia, Iraq and the Falklands.

The organizers of the Bloodhound project hope to do more than set a land speed record. They're hoping it helps change Britain by inspiring young people to take up engineering.

"It is very important in the UK that we address the shortage of engineers. Less than an hour before we fired that rocket we had children in there asking questions, I hope that helps inspire the next generation," the Western Morning News quoted Jubb as saying.

When the project was launched in 2008, organizers also said it would "also be the catalyst for a raft of cutting-edge research in fields such as aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, materials technology, composite manufacturing and sustainable high-tech engineering."

So maybe we'll be motoring around on solid aluminum wheels one day. That's how the Bloodhound will travel. It will be going so fast that it can't use conventional wheels. Instead, the four wheels, two inside the nose and two set outside the frame at the rear, will be made completely of aluminum. They'll weigh about 210 pounds each and spin at 10,000 rpm.

Meanwhile, before the British group can go for a 1,000-mph record, an American outfit hopes to try to push the current mark to beat a bit higher.

North American Eagle says on its website that it plans to run a turbojet-powered vehicle across a Western desert at 771 mph some time this year.

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Filed under: Automobiles • South Africa • Technology • United Kingdom
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. jarod monaco

    WOW just wow

    October 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. rmsbl4

    Fastest known speed that a person has survived an ejection is 800 mph. The pilot survived with multiple injuries the back seater did not survive. Since this attempt will be at ground level the air will be denser and thus probably would not be survivable unles it was a capsule. The chute would probably ripped to shreads at their hoped for top speed.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. rocketman

    Mach waves looked pretty cool...made me want to design a nozzle with the method of characteristics

    October 4, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. T.C. Couhig

    Waste of time, kind of like the entire field at Talladega.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      But not as much of a waste of time as your comment.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Richard

    I'm more impressed that many years ago, a car with 4 Hemi piston-driven conventional engines went over 400mph than if wheels are put on a missile and it hits 1000mph.

    October 4, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Martin

    It sure does not look like it will meet the Federal emmision standards, with all that black smoke. Just makes the polar cap melt a little faster. I really don't know what the point is, your lucky to get up to the speed limit around here with all the traffic. 1000 MPH from one fuel stop to the next every 5 miles or what, there just isn't any practical use for it. Why not take the money and build a few homes for the homeless folks instead.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • SimmerBioch

      Dude, it's converting synthetic rubber to aerosol – control yourself.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Duane

    Really! I'm down for science, but do we really need a missile with wheels? Where in the world are we going to to drive that? Lets put the money in high-speed rail or wind energy, or solar power. Not rocket cars. If these people knew they would get awarded millions of dollars to build something to sustain our future they would be hard at work.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      Who cares? It's private money. They can do whatever they want with it.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Piranha

    I'd like to drive it on the Autobahn in Germany, eat my dust Posche, Ferrarri, and Lambo. Of course stopping it is a little tricky.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      Until you came to a curve in the road. Then you'd be in big, big trouble.

      October 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GaryO

      LOL. There are lots of muscle cars that are made to perform impressively only when going in a straight line, but this will be the mother of all straight-line-only cars. I wish them luck with their wheeled cruise missile.

      October 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Andrew

    Neat. Maybe it should be further enhanced to be used for aircraft since rocket cars are about as useful as grime in your bathtub.

    October 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. .

    When I was a little kid, me and my friends would argue over who was faster: Art Arfons and the Green Monster or Craig Breedlove and the Spirit of America.

    It's nice to see that spirit is alive and well today!

    October 4, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Galaxy Prime

    Cold pizza deliveries will now be a thing of the past – your neighbors may complain about the sonic boom though.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AJ

    Get a donkey and install jet over its back you will get the same result.

    October 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JD

    How many cup holders?

    October 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. avd

    sorry guys. I know a lot of work and effort goes into this vehicle to keep it stable and on the ground, but strapping wheels to a missile is not impressive to me. That's not in my books a land-speed record. Get a combustion engine to go that fast and now we're talking.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Zodnick

    If things go wrong the driver wont even have time to say "Ah Shi.....

    October 5, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
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